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What is Linguistics?
Linguistics is the study and practice of understanding how languages form and evolve. Individuals in the field will be responsible for understanding and identifying various aspects of a given language, including constructing and referencing ancient and dead languages for the purposes of research and reconstruction. Individuals may find employment in a variety of fields based on their focus and level and education. Linguistics also incorporates a variety of other disciplines, such as history, anthropology, and sociology to better understand the nature of language.
Why a Linguistics Major?
In its most basic form, linguistics is the scientific study of language. The art interacting with others coupled with the science of linguistics fuse together for linguists as knowledge deepens in the following 5 domains of language and language acquisition:
- Understanding how languages vary from region to region
- Considering how language affects how we think about the world around us and how we respond to external & internal stimuli
- Analyzing how children acquire a language or multiple languages
- Philosophizing about conscious and unconscious aspects of language
- Understanding the constructs and intricacies of different languages
What Jobs Can I Get with a Linguistics Degree?
There are a number of career opportunities for linguistics majors from state to state and region to region. Below we have provided several examples for you to consider as you research the viability of a linguistics career after earning a college degree as a linguist. The examples of career opportunities for a linguistic major include the following:
Education: Students earning a college degree in linguistics may be a perfect fit to help advance the field of education. Specific jobs for a linguistic in the education industry may include: curriculum development, training others, teaching language-based subjects, performing research about language in education, teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), teaching at a college or university, teaching a foreign language, participate in school administration to help shape culture and awareness.
Technology: Trained linguists are in high demand for technology-based projects from natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence, speech recognition (think Amazon: Alexa, Google Home, Apple: Siri, Microsoft: Cortana), user experience research, computer-language learning modalities, and text-to-speech software applications.
Translation: Working as a translator or interpreter can provide a bevy of career opportunities for a linguistic major. In fact, an interpreter or translator can work in private industry, public corporations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. From a federal court of law to a community hospital, interpreters are a vital part of the way we communicate in the United States.
Publishing: A linguist major may also elect to join the publishing industry as an editor, technical writer, freelance writer, publisher, or journalist. With the ability to understand language and language acquisition coupled with a knack for writing make for a winning combination for linguists in the publishing industry.
Standardized Tests: Linguists of all stripes are needed to help students make sense of standardized tests. From the ACT to the TOEFL, a student must be able to make sense of a question or essay in order to demonstrate a proficiency in that subject. Linguists are the effective language bridge to help make sense of a standardized test or essay along with a key component to designing standardized tests.
Consultant: College graduates with a major in linguistics may act as a consultant on language for such industries as healthcare and the legal profession. Forensic language consultants can help industry professionals make sense of legal documents, confirm case-specific evidence, decode pieces of disparate information, and such for federal agents and public corporations.
Lexicographic: Maintaining and organizing a dictionary database is a highly acute task for any linguist. Expertise in history, linguistics, sociolinguistics, phonology, dialectology, and morphology are important for any lexicographer.
Marketing & Advertising: National and international corporations spend extensive resources performing linguistic research prior to launching a large-scale ad campaign. The work behind the sense to achieve the correct message requires top-notch advertising managers and linguistic experts.
Historian: Historical societies and state agencies across the world may engage a trained linguist to help research, analyze, transcribe, and otherwise bring an endangered language back to life. Work such as this, are generally multi-year contracts with large organizations, tribes, or countries involving extensive research, fieldwork, in-depth surveys, cultural understanding, and fluency in a language or dialect.
Government: Government agencies around the world engage trained linguists to perform a wide variety of tasks. From the FBI to the NSA and the CIA to the DOD, professional linguist are an integral part of government agencies and state agencies.
Orator: Linguists can also follow a career to become public speakers or help train others to become speakers, actors, performers, translators, and so forth. Any public figure needing to communicate with others may be able to benefit from the training from a qualified linguist.
Linguistics College Degree Programs
The linguistics degree track provides students and practitioners with the unique insight and understanding into human behavior, communication, and knowledge. College degree programs in linguistics will teach students the finer points regarding: human language, semantics, syntax, cadence, phonetics, morphology, sociolinguistics, language acquisition, language processing, and computational linguistics.
Drilling down into a specific language, a linguist would be able to apply phonetics and sociolinguistics to understand a particular person or group of people within a particular region. Further, linguistics would help shed light on the differences in language dialects, social classes, political systems, healthcare, along with an array of theoretical sciences to construct a working understanding of this group.
Onsite or online college degree programs in linguistics will vary from school to school and region to region but most accredited college degree programs will cover similar core subjects. Classes such as an introductory to linguistics, the nature of language, language as social action, linguistic variation, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, computer science, applied linguistics, phonetics, syntactic theory, morphology, semantics, and computational linguistics. For additional information from accredited colleges and universities, simply request information from any number of schools listed below for additional data about their classroom-based or online linguistics degree programs.
Graduate Studies in Linguistics
After earning a college degree in linguistics, some students elect to continue with their education in a graduate program. Many options exist for students and working professionals to continue their studies in the field of linguistics after earning an undergraduate degree. A sampling of Master’s degree programs, Doctorate degree programs, graduate programs, and professional development opportunities exist in the following areas of concentration:
- Cognitive Science
- Computer Science
- Speech Pathology
- Information Science
Students studying linguistics will at minimum have to earn a bachelor's degree, though specialization in a given area of linguistics, particularly focusing on a specific language or language tree will be pursued at the master and doctoral level. An education in linguistics will involve in depth understanding and education in how languages are formed and spread. Students will research the various aspects of language, including morphology, syntax, phonetics and more. Higher level degrees will focus on more specific areas, focusing on specific aspects of language and allow for analyses and research.
A curriculum in linguistics may include:
- Linguistic Theory
- Evolution of Language
- History and Language
- Comparative Linguistics
Schools Other Students Have Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities and Job Growth
Individuals specializing in linguistics, or one of its subfields will find employment opportunities available in a variety of fields, including education, translation, research, forensics and more. Individuals will have more opportunities at higher education levels. Specialization also allows individuals to pursue research opportunities through grants offered by the government or through research universities. Linguistics is an growing field that utilizes new techniques and technologies to better track and define how and why languages form and evolve, though growth in the field is limited due the time investment in education and limited practical applications.
States with the Largest Number of Linguists
- California 7,890
- Texas 4,030
- Florida 2,770
- New York 2,720
- Virginia 2,400
Top 5 Paying States for a Linguistics Major
- District of Columbia $88,250
- Virginia $74,130
- New Jersey $69,190
- Colorado $67,510
- Maryland $66,800
Top Cities for Linguistics Majors
- New York - New Jersey
- Washington DC
- Los Angeles, CA
- Houston, TX
- Phoenix, AZ
- Boston, MA
- Portland, OR
- Minneapolis – St. Paul
Salary and Related Fields
Salaries for linguists will vary greatly based on field and position, but will be higher for educated and experienced researchers and professors, and lower among individuals who have earned a bachelor's degree only and pursue limited opportunities available at that level. The national average income for a linguist is $46,120 annually with an astounding 29% growth rate projected in the coming decade which is 4 times the national average for all jobs during this time. Linguists are expected to add 17,500 jobs during this same reporting period.
Individuals interested in linguistics may be also be interested in applied linguistics, comparative literature, and language interpretation and translation.